Improving the efficiency of older plant equipment

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To reduce energy consumption in an industrial plant, it's not essential to replace all legacy equipment. After all, most companies invest in machines for long-term use and it's not the best use of resources to replace them ahead of schedule.
In fact, manufacturers can achieve significant cost savings simply by making older plant equipment more energy efficient.
"It is a common misconception that only new equipment can be energy efficient," Jonathan Wilkins, marketing director at obsolete industrial parts supplier EU Automation, told Design News. "Legacy equipment, and older equipment no longer supplied by the original equipment manufacturer, can be adapted to reduce energy consumption in the supply chain."
There are several ways of reducing the energy use of older equipment.
For example, connectivity -- the Internet of Things -- improves visibility, giving plant operators access to real-time data to monitor how the assembly line is running. This data can also be used to fine-tune the system to make it more efficient.
"Manufacturers can use this real-time data to find areas where equipment is not running at maximum capacity, or is consuming more energy than required," Wilkins explained. "Manufacturers must then decide how to optimise this equipment to improve productivity and reduce energy consumption."
Meanwhile, inefficient machines that use motors can be enhanced with advanced technology such as variable speed drives, which control the speed so they only use the energy necessary to complete an action.
An added benefit of improved efficiency is greater uptime, Wilkins noted:
"If equipment is consuming more energy than required, it can easily overheat and break down. That leads to unplanned, expensive downtime.
"Installing equipment that optimises energy efficiency also means the machine will require less energy to complete its actions, increasing its lifespan."
A shift to preventive maintenance, enabled by machine connectivity, can further reduce unplanned interruptions in production.
And lastly, it's important to remember that reducing energy consumption brings benefits to the whole business by lowering the cost of producing goods.
"Manufacturers can then spend money elsewhere to improve productivity," Wilkins said. "As machinery becomes more advanced, it will optimise productivity, leading to better accuracy and faster job completion."
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